Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Courant’
By Nicholas Courant (www.twitter.com/nicholascourant)
“It’s better to have a good neighbour than a distant friend” We’re all familiar with the saying, but in an age where tweeps across the globe are just 140 characters away, it’s so easy to neglect the nearby. And yet, your next-door neighbours or the local communities around your company sites do have a greater influence on your company and your reputation than you would sometimes realize.
Just last week, I read the story of two owners of a trendy club in Belgium shutting down their flourishing business because they couldn’t cope with the complaints of their neighbour any longer. They, and their landlord, had been ignoring his protests against the late-night noise caused by the club and its trendy, boozed up visitors. After all, the club had been around for years and the angry tenant should have known before he decided to rent the place. A reflection that many of us probably would have made, but one that boomeranged back into their faces. All of a sudden, Saturday night’s regular visitors included not only trendy youngsters, but also coppers with decibel meters. Needless to say, the shiny blue uniforms didn’t exactly boost business for the club.
These days, companies are increasingly recognizing the value of a community manager for their online reputation. Well, why not have your community manager take a broader perspective on “community” and adopt a holistic approach towards distant and local communities alike? After all, what’s the sense of building a powerful group of online evangelizers if locally, your reputation is being slanted by angry neighbours badmouthing your company in the press? And what if they start influencing the same politicians that you rely on to grant you your next exploitation permit?
The principles of accessibility and transparence should therefore be applied to all influential stakeholders. Yes, also the angry neighbour that deep inside you would rather ignore. So reach out to the local community before they turn against your company, monitor their sentiments by offering quick and easy opportunities for feedback, identify the local top influencers and before all, try to look for solutions together. Not just because it’s your duty as a good and responsible neighbour, but because in the end it’s better for business. Hence my plea to get community manager from behind his or her computer screens (yes, they’re usually surrounded by a number of screens) and have them take a walk around the block from time to time. A bit of fresh air won’t hurt your community manager, but it will help you to find a good neighbour.
Remember that movie “What Women Want” where the main character can suddenly read the thoughts of women? I’m pretty sure that a lot of employers would benefit from this experience with their own employees. Actually, if there is one basic rule that I would recommend for internal communication, it’s this one: think first and foremost about what the audience –your employees- want. Yes sure, as an employer you want the troops to march in line towards a profitable future. But mind you, the troops do have minds of their own and it’s in your best interest to create an atmosphere where those minds can flourish.
If internal communication is simply about getting the messages of the boardroom across to the work floor, you will fail over and over again. Internal communication can simply not be one-way. Companies that manage to create a culture where employees feel appreciated and empowered to deliver their best work have a much bigger chance of success.
Of course, a company culture is influenced by more than just the internal communication strategy. It’s about leading by example, about how you look at the future, about how you live your brand and so much more. Internal communication, when done in the right way, can contribute to the success of your company. Here are a few basic principles to create an internal communication strategy that employees want:
1. Be open and honest from the start: get people involved in where the company is heading by sharing your intentions and strategy early on. This makes it easier for employees to cope with change and will help them to internalize the company’s strategy.
2. Share your successes and failures. It’s so easy to celebrate victories, but so damn hard to be open about failures. Although failures can be defining moments for the future of the company and usually they are well-known in the coffee corner, they are often not talked about in public. Credible internal communication acknowledges a company’s failures and shows how they are part of the learning curve of a company. As difficult as that sort of honesty might seem, it’s necessary to create real trust in the company’s leadership.
3. Provide opportunities for feedback as it takes two-way communication to create involvement. When you invite employees to provide feedback and contribute to the company’s internal communication, your messages will be more in tune with what they want.
4. Invest in clear and creative communication. Think about receiving a Christmas present: do you prefer your presents presented in a dull cardboard box with duck tape or in an appealing gift wrap? The same goes for internal communication tools: by presenting newsletters, internal e-mails or company magazines in an appealing way and making them easy-to-read, your employees will actually look forward to reading them. By the way: don’t miss out on the opportunity to reinforce your brand with a well-used creative translation of your brand identity in your internal communication tools.
5. Finally, don’t just assume you know what employees want, but evaluate your communication platform from time to time. Unless of course, you’re suddenly able to hear your employees’ thoughts…
As I was writing this blog post, I read a great guest blog post on Harvard Business Review on what it takes to be a great employer. The article basically confirms that great employers –those that run companies with engaged employees who positively influence their company’s operating income – meet the needs and wants of their employees, not just their own: “So what most influences employee engagement? In our work with several dozen Fortune 500 companies, we’ve come to believe the Holy Grail is the degree to which employers actively invest in meeting the multidimensional needs of their employees. Above all else, that’s what frees, fuels and inspires people to bring the best of themselves to work every day. “